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eometric and fonts?

How fonts were created based on geometrical shapes.

Sok Pen Seah

eometric and fonts?

How fonts were created based on geometrical shapes.

Sok Pen Seah

Rectangularity, Use of pure colour, Absence of decoration

De Stijl

Architype van Doesburg

Designed by Theo van Doesburg


Sans-serif did not derive itself solely from serif. It all began with a Dutch movement called De Stijl. De Stijl (“The Style” in Dutch) was an artistic movement (also the name of a magazine) led by Theo van Doesburg as well as other famous members such as Piet Mondrian, Bart Anthony van der Leck and Gerrit Rietveld. It was through this magazine that van Doesburg and his partners were able to propagate their ideas of design. In this art movement, they carried the principle that all design should be basic in its form and colour. Design compositions following this movements are lim-

ited to only vertical and horizontal lines whilst using only primary colours as well as black and white. They do not believe in decorative design but abstraction. Art works and typography that was designed by these people were full of only squares and rectangles. Being part of De Stijl movement, Van Doesburg’s designs have always been based on geometrical form. For example, van Doesburg designed his font using only squares and rectangles. Van der Leck, another artist from De Stijl movement, created a poster “Delftsche Slaolie” (Delft Salad Oil) using basic geometric shapes and primary 3

colours to depict people. The font on the previous page was designed by Theo van Doesburg. As it is shown, all the alphabet A was squarish. He used this font as one of his exhibition poster design.

Theo van Doesburg’s Poster design


Theo van Doesburg (30th August 1883- 7th March 1931) was born in Netherlands.He was also a painter and an architect. Image on the left was taken when he was in the army.


Form follows function

Moving to Weimar


In 1922, van Doesburg went to Weimar as he had been promised a job at Bauhaus. However, rumours had been given out that Walter Gropius (the principal of Bauhaus) took back his word. Although Gropius denied this, it was not denied that van Doesburg did not get a teaching position. Even so, that did not stop van Doesburg to spread his De Stijl movement. He set up a De Stijl course in Weimar which was well attended by Bauhaus students. There was a well known lecturer in Bauhaus -- Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. He joined Bauhaus as a replacement for Johannes Itten in 1923. Moholy-Nagy met van Doesburg

in the Constructivist conference before he join Bauhaus. It was organised by van Doesburg in Weimar. MoholyNagy was impressed by van Doesburg’s ideology, and decided to learn from him. Both of them were thus well acquainted before the latter’s arrival in the Bauhaus in 1923. Due to the influence by van Doesburg, MoholyNagy also brought in some of his school of thought into Bauhaus. One of his students, Herbert Bayer, designed Bauhaus and Univers in 1925 by using simple geometric shapes and produced clean lines and letters. The following page

Bauhaus typeface

Designed by Herbert Bayer



shows how the Bauhaus font is related to its design. Compare the outline of the alphabet and the shapes at the back. Bauhaus font consist of only geometrical shapes. It is classical yet uncomplicated. Later on, the font has then evolved to become the clean and clear cut sans-serif fonts that we use today.


Theo van Doesburg’s Construtivist Conference photo, where he met Moholy-Nagy.




A font that was designed based on geometrical shapes

g Futura

Designed by Paul Renner


Futura In 1926, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy published in Bauhaushelft 7 saying that “Since all existing Grostesque book styles lack basic style, Grotesque still has to be created”. Meantime, Paul Renner was already creating a new Grotesque style based on simple basic forms such as square, circle and triangle. He limited himself strictly to the geometric outline. Bauhaus’s design principle has great influence even on those who did not attend their class. Renner adopted the Bauhaus’s core principle that form follows funtions which basically states that a good design is designed to its purpose. Futura was designed

between 1924 and 1926, it was issued by Bauer Foundry in six weights. The font Futura was the typography that was used on the moon plate when human first landed on moon. Futura is still widely welcome till today it is also used as a form of expressing strength, elegance and concept. There are lots of corporate use Futura as their logo, for example, Louis Vuitton, Domino’s Pizza and Absolut. 12

Original design for Futura

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTU VWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Final design for Futura

AA On the left is Futura, right is Avenir.

Due to its popularity, Futura triggered Adrian Frutiger to create a new typeface based on Futura. However, Avenir did not create from a pure geometrical shape like Futura but it can be classified as constructivist typeface.



Nothing more or less than a clear representation of modern typographical trends

Avenir According to Frutiger, Avenir is intended to be “nothing more nor less than a clear and clean representation of modern typographical trends, giving the designer a typeface which is strictly modern and at the same time humane, ie suitable refined and elegant for use in texts of any lengths”. The differences between Avenir and Futura is that the junction points of oblique-line characters A, N, M, V, W and Z had been flattened. Frutiger also decided to maintain the roman tradition form of “a” instead of using the rounded “a” like Futura. Today, Avenir is used by Amsterdam’s government as their corporate identity, Apple uses Avenir in their Maps, 15 iPhoto and Siri screens.

Adrian Frutiger (24th May 1928- present) was born in Switzerland. His famous typeface was Univers and Frutiger. Frutiger used to work in Deberny & Peignot Foundry.



Books Overy, Paul. De Stijl. London: Studio Vista, 1969. Print. Chanzit, Gwen Finkel. Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1987. Print. Bayer, Herbert, Walter Gropius, Ise Gropius, and Beaumont Newhall. Bauhaus, 1919-1928. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1975. Print. Westphal, Uwe. The Bauhaus. London: Studio Editions, 1991. Print. Websites Avenir Amsterdam photo “NUTBEY DESIGN | Buro Voor Grafisch Ontwerp / Amsterdam » Bestuursdienst Amsterdam.” NUTBEY DESIGN. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. <>

“Herbert Bayer Biography - Infos - Art Market.” Herbert Bayer Biography - Infos - Art Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <>. “Gemeente Amsterdamé-” Gemeente Amsterdamé” N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.>. “Johannes Itten Biography - Infos - Art Market.” Johannes Itten Biography - Infos - Art Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <>. “The Bauhaus Designer Paul Renner |” N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. < > “Foundry Types.” Architype Konstrukt, OpenType, Level 1,. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. < params/architype-konstrukt/opentype/level-1/van-doesburg >

Et tu Brute  
Et tu Brute  

The Brief: To write and design a book that shows typographical connections, and create a poster to go with the publication.